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Governor checks on local progress

Ohio Gov. DeWine stresses importance of vaccines during Steubenville stop

ALL TOGETHER — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine toured the Jefferson County Health Department’s vaccination clinic inside the Fort Steuben Mall on Monday and talked with local leaders and the health department’s staff. -- Andrew Grimm

STEUBENVILLE — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called COVID-19 vaccines “our ticket to freedom” during a Monday stop in Steubenville

DeWine and his wife, Fran, toured the Jefferson County Health Department’s vaccination clinic inside the Fort Steuben Mall on Monday, talking with staff, local officials and those receiving the shot.

“Here’s the bottom line — the vaccine is our ticket to a good spring, the vaccine is the ticket to a good summer, the vaccine is our ticket out of this pandemic,” DeWine said. “That’s how we get our freedom back. As Fran and I talk to people who are getting their shots, the No. 1 thing they say is they have their freedom back, they have the ability to go see their grandchild, they have the ability to go see their mother who they might not have seen for a year. This is really what the vaccination is all about.

“Our ticket to go see the Pirates play, or the Indians play, or whatever you want to do (is the vaccine). When you have that vaccine, people feel much more empowered. It really is our ticket to freedom.”

He said Steubenville was the 32nd such stop he and Fran have made across the state.

“It really gives us the opportunity to talk to people who are getting the shots, people who are giving the shots,” he said. “The Jefferson County Health Department is doing a very fine job.”

“I learn something at every stop,” he later added, noting he talks to the state’s more than 100 health commissioners daily. “My experience in life is if you really want to understand what is going on you have to go out and talk to people, mostly listen to what they are telling you. Getting out and talking to the county commissioners, talking to the mayor, talking to the leaders in the community, talking to the people who are coming in, I always pick up things.”

DeWine pointed out that Ohio has vaccinated roughly 35 percent of its population. Jefferson County Health Commissioner Andrew Henry said the county is at around 30 percent.

“It’s very important for us to continue this process,” he said. “My goal is to get the vaccine out to everybody in the state of Ohio who wants it. We’re moving forward. If you look at those who are 65 years of age and older, we’re over 70 percent. So, making some real progress.”

Henry pointed out there are several ways to get the vaccine in the county, either through the health department, other providers and the state’s mobile vaccination clinics that began last week.

“We have plenty of capacity in our clinics so we are encouraging folks to come out and get the vaccine,” he said, noting the county has seen an uptick in cases. “We continue to encourage people to follow the protocols, wear your mask, continue to social distance, so we can get out of this together.”

He and DeWine noted there are openings for vaccinations in the county this week.

DeWine said the state is monitoring the success of the mobile clinics and providers doing walk-up service, noting some people simply don’t prefer appointments.

“My message to anybody in Jefferson County, this part of the state, even West Virginia, is this is the time to get it,” he said.

DeWine also addressed the rise in cases in the state despite increasing vaccination rates.

“What that means is this is a very, very contagious virus now, much more contagious than it was two of three months ago,” he said. “The variant that is out there is dangerous.”

He pointed to reports from Michigan as a warning, saying “we have a few more weeks than they did to get more people vaccinated.”

The governor called the current phase of vaccination “a different time” than the earlier phases.

“Now we have a lot of vaccine. This week, for the first time, we’re starting to see openings where people who have not been able to get it so far clearly have the ability to get it,” he said. “There are a number of sites here in Jefferson County people can do that. We’re also starting to see businesses that want to bring the vaccination into their business. We’re encouraging that, we ask them to reach out to the health department, reach out to a provider. There is enough vaccine now.”

DeWine also emphasized the importance of younger people getting vaccinated.

“For our young people, particularly those who are teenagers, those who are in high school, getting this vaccine may ensure that you can have a good baseball season without an interruption, or track season, or, next fall, cross country or football. For athletes, or anybody who is in theater or anything connected with your school, having the shot may make it so they do not have that interrupted.

“We’ve seen this past year without the vaccine they’ve had their seasons interrupted. Teams have had to stop; players have had to stop. So, if there needs to be an incentive, the incentive to be able to play your sport is certainly a good one.”

DeWine also had a message for those reluctant to get the shot – talk to one’s physician.

“Talk to your own personal doctor, that’s the person you should talk to. You don’t have to rely on me or anybody else,” he said. “Go to that doctor who you trust and who you work with and talk to them about what they think your situation is and whether or not you should get the vaccine.”

He also noted that he’s learned from talking to people across the state family members and loved ones have an impact on helping make the decision.

“For those people have been vaccinated, having the opportunity to talk to other members of your family and tell them about your experience, you have a great deal of influence,” he said.

Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla, a fellow Republican, offered his praise of DeWine’s communication during the pandemic.

“Thank you for coming to Steubenville,” he said, addressing the governor directly. “You have done a fantastic job. I must say your communication with the public, it’s been so rewarding to know what’s going on and the information you have provided for us gives us a sense of safety.

“Keep up the good work, the city of Steubenville is always here to help in any way we can.”

The mayor also echoed the governor in encouraging people to be vaccinated.

“I encourage all of us to take these vaccine shots. It gives us a sense of freedom, a sense that we now are not in fear anymore,” Barilla said. “I think that’s so important to be able to able to walk around now with a sense of freedom and without fear.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Maple, a Republican, thanked the health department staff for their work.

“I don’t often get the chance to recognize (publicly) the folks that are here working,” Maple said. “Our frontline workers, we thank them, but we don’t often in this atmosphere get a chance, so I want to recognize them, our health commissioner and all of your staff. We appreciate what everybody has done. It is a group effort. We’ve got to keep on moving.”

DeWine also called on Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Maple-Damewood to discuss the business aspect of the pandemic.

“It’s been a year of watching (local businesses) go through a year unlike any other,” she said. “They’re so commendable, strong, resilient and creative. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone to respect those businesses by continuing to follow the safety protocols. Continue to support the local businesses, wear your mask out of respect for them. We will come out the other side.”

The DeWines also made an unplanned stop at Walgreens at the corner of Lovers Lane and Sunset Boulevard, where walk-in customers were being vaccinated.

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